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Colombia’s New National Reconciliation Law Will Also Apply to Drug Traffickers

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national reconciliation law Colombia
Gustavo Petro spoke about the national reconciliation law in Colombia. Credit: Twitter/MaPaulaFonseca

President Gustavo Petro spoke yesterday at a public event in Cienaga de Oro (Cordoba) about the national reconciliation law being prepared by his government. This law will serve not only to advance his concept of “Total Peace” with various armed groups in the country but also to promote dialogue, even with drug traffickers, who could avail themselves of this law in exchange for ceasing their illicit activities.

The president’s project for “Total Peace” continues to be controversial among those who do not view favorably the Colombian government’s willingness to engage in dialogue with various armed groups beyond the ELN. Yesterday, after weeks of criticism from these sectors and various pressure groups, President Petro once again discussed the law. He did so in his hometown, the town of Cienaga de Oro, in the department of Cordoba.

From “Total Peace” to “National Reconciliation” in Colombia

“A law of national reconciliation will be created so that all those who have been involved in illegality and violence can find a path and a way to live in this Colombian nation, once they distance themselves from the thought, the mind, and the idea of killing a fellow countryman,” the president said in a speech that was enthusiastically applauded by the crowd that gathered to hear him.

The project is not new. The Head of State had this proposal during his campaign and it has been one of his main slogans since he took office. He resumed the peace process with the ELN and opened the door of the state to the other armed groups operating in the country. Yesterday, going beyond the groups that have political status, he spoke of including drug trafficking groups in the future law.

“To those drug traffickers, we say that there is another path. Despite the insults I receive every day, where I’m called crazy, where they believe I’m as corrupt as they are, I tell them: no, drug traffickers also have a path here,” Petro said in defence of his legislative project.

National Reconciliation Law Colombia
Drug traffickers could benefit from a future national reconciliation law in Colombia. Credit: National Police

Opponents of “Total Peace”

It should be noted that this week the Attorney General’s Office asked to overturn Law 2272 of 2022, known as the “Total Peace” law, which the government promoted. This agency complained about the lack of specificity of the law. The articles lack “minimum specificity to comply with higher mandates, and their provisions must undergo strict scrutiny,” said Attorney General Margarita Cabello, who disagrees with offering benefits to groups like the FARC dissidents who betrayed the agreements signed with the Colombian State.

Likewise, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation stated that arrest warrants against illegal groups without political status cannot be lifted. “Without a legal framework for submission, the suspension of arrest warrants for criminal structures without political status can hinder criminal action,” said Deputy Prosecutor Martha Mancera.

For their part, representatives of the Democratic Center party, such as Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal argued that the government had introduced an article to the law, without parliamentary debate, allowing negotiations with the FARC dissidents. Cabal alleged procedural defects, insisting that this article “was never discussed.”

What to Do with Drug Traffickers?

Although Danilo Rueda, High Commissioner for Peace, had already announced that the spirit of the law was to negotiate with armed groups, whether or not they have political status, the president’s statements in Cienaga now clearly speak of including drug traffickers under the shelter of this law, which would now be about national reconciliation.

For now, no further details have been provided about the role of drug trafficking groups or the type of benefits they would obtain. However, statements from members of the “Pacto Histórico,” the coalition that supports the president, suggest that these benefits would align with those obtained by groups with political status that have abandoned armed struggle.

The truth is that the country is experiencing intense weeks of debate about the concept of “total peace.” While the government speaks of an upcoming law for national reconciliation, Law 2272 of 2022 hangs in the balance. The law awaits a decision from the Supreme Court, which could overturn it. A ruling against it would leave the government without a legal framework to move forward in the direction of ‘total peace’, at least in the way it had been proposing since its political journey began in August of last year.


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